THE BLOG
08/18/2007 04:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Al Franken Talks Campaigning, Fund-Raising and Norm Coleman

Minneapolis -- This Tuesday, George W. Bush and Norm Coleman will attend a fundraiser for Coleman at a private home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. You can probably attend, too. A mere one thousand dollars will get you in. Give $10,000 and they'll list you as a co-host in the program. Give $14,600, and they'll say you're a host.

That same day, Al Franken will appear at a food drive in a picnic shelter in a public park in Plymouth, Minnesota. Then he'll race across town to a non-fundraising potluck dinner at the East Side Community Center in Saint Paul. You can probably attend those events for less than a thousand dollars A contribution of some kind of canned goods would be nice at one. It sounds like they won't even pass the hat at the other.

Tuesday illustrates the difference between the two men, the two campaigns, and the two fundraising efforts. Coleman hobnobs, Franken runs. Go to alfranken.com. Watch one or two of the videos posted there. See for yourself.

Franken literally runs from curb to curb, shaking hands, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and raising funds as he marches in 3 small town 4th of July parades.

"I live in Texas. I can't vote for you, can I?" asks a woman in a lawn chair watching the parade in Aurora up on Minnesota's Iron Range.

"No," says Franken. "But you can send me money."

Or read the alfranken.com report of a whirlwind tour of western Minnesota. There is classic Minnesota summertime campaign food. Apple pie. Sweet corn. Biscuits and gravy. Dairy Queen. There are classic Minnesota campaign people: Democratic Farmer Labor state representatives and operatives. Farmers (organic and "regular"). Local folks. There are speeches and discussions about policy and political positions. There's a night as guests in a real home - not a motel.

And there is fundraising. Down home-style fundraising, including an auction where somebody buys the aforementioned apple pie, (baked by Franken's wife, Franni), and shares it with the entire team.

If there is an auction at the Coleman fete Tuesday, it will probably be silent. It will probably feature items that bring in at least five figures. And it probably won't include homemade apple pie.

Franken is acutely aware of the differences between the two campaigns and the way they raise funds.

"We have a lot more people donating than Norm does," he says. "We raised $1.9 million last quarter - and we had more than 26,000 donors. We averaged about $65 per donation.

"Norm has fewer donors, but they write bigger checks. I think he averaged about $600 per donation last quarter. And we still out-raised him."

This is where most Coleman supporters would point to Franken's Hollywood contributors. Franken is more than prepared to respond.

"A quarter to a third of Norm's money comes from Political Action Committees," says Franken. "He's got Big Pharma... Big Oil... Big Insurance... Big Coal... Money that - very often - comes in in $10,000 checks.

"I tell people, 'I've got Big Comedy.'

"We've got maybe 45,000 contributors, and probably about... I think less than 100 of them are in the "Hollywood" category.

"Besides, they're my friends. They're people I've worked with. Norm hasn't worked in Big Pharma. He hasn't been an oil wildcatter. They're not his friends. So why are they giving him money?"

"When PACs give money, they want something - and they've been getting it. Like Medicare Part D - the law that says the government can't negotiate for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.'

"Big Comedy doesn't want anything from me," Franken says.

"Al likes to say, 'Tom Hanks isn't going to ask me for an earmark,'" reports one Franken campaign worker.

Unlike Coleman, Franken will talk to people outside the traditional fold. Saturday found him working the crowd at Game Fair - an annual rite of early fall, where hunting and fishing enthusiasts get together out in a field on a farm to talk - well - hunting and fishing.

At Game Fair, Minnesota isn't a red, blue, or purple state. It's an autumnal shade of patterned camouflage and blaze orange (blaze orange - the color to wear when hunting with the vice president).

At Game Fair, NRA members outnumber Democrats by a margin of at least 5-1. After twenty-plus years of unrelenting right wing talk radio, with the right framing campaign after campaign in terms of, "Gays, guns and God," why even try?

"There's a kind of a growing nexus between green people and people who hunt," Franken explains. "The people who hunt are actually out there on the ground. They live it. They see it. They're affected by it..."

Coleman hobnobs. Franken runs. If the Coleman campaign has yet to notice the pace, passion and personality of the Franken effort in the field, maybe Republicans who live further from George Bush and closer to the voting booth can walk up the driveway, knock on the door at that home in Eden Prairie next Tuesday and fill them in.

"We've had Al Franken through here three or four times, already," a Republican office holder from the west central part of the state is reported to have said, "And Norm Coleman? Who's Norm Coleman? Where's Norm Coleman? Nobody around here has seen Norm Coleman."